Jim Henson’s The Storyteller has to be one of the buried treasures of television. I’m so sad to see that the DVD is out of print and Netflix no longer has it available to stream. The series aired in 1988 and only had one season, oh but what a glorious season it was.
The gist of the show is that back in olden times, everyone would crowd around the town’s storyteller and he would tell them about their past, their history, their whole culture by giving them the shared stories. Each story is based on a lesser known European (mostly German and Russian) fairy tale. John Hurt played The Storyteller, and the episodes had both actors and puppets. Brian Henson was the voice of the dog, who sat by the Storyteller’s chair and asked him questions about the stories and characters, helping the audience understand situations and being the voice of the children when things got too scary.
I adore this show because it exposed me to fairy tales and myths I would never have encountered otherwise. These are not Disney-fied princess stories. They have some tense and frightening moments. But it’s always fascinating to see the common threads that connect us through each of these stories and also how cultures approached life, death, love, hate, romance etc. through their stories. It was smart television, something that could be enjoyed by the entire family. The puppets were well done and the stories had a sense of humor and wonder.
My all time favorite episode is The Soldier and Death. I found a little clip on YouTube posted by the Jim Henson Company. This is just short scene where the Soldier tries to help out the village by ridding their local castle of devils. Because the devils have one weakness – the are gamblers!
And, yes, that is Robert Peck from Jurassic Park as The Soldier. You’ll find quite a collection of actors – Sean Bean, the chick for Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade – oh and the series was scripted by Anthony Mingella who went on to write The English Patient.
While the series is no longer available on DVD, it does appear that iTunes has it for purchase, along with it’s even shorter-lived spin off Greek Myths. If you can find a copy somewhere, I recommend watching a few.